These photos are hard to look at. A group of abused and starving lions in Sudan went viral when activist Osman Salih posted about their plight in a Facebook post. Many people agreed with his statement of “seeing these animals caged and be treated this way made my blood boil.” As a result, the hashtag #sudananimalrescue started trending.
In these painful pictures, the lions are extremely emaciated, and some had wounds, infections, and parasites. Unfortunately, one of the lions passed away soon after being rescued.
He kept an update of the lions’ progress on Facebook, but many people were infuriated when they heard how the lions got to that state.
“Save Sudan’s Starving Lions”
The lions were found at a park whose officials blamed Sudan’s economic crisis for their poor treatment. When Salih found them, they had resided for weeks without proper food or medication. Their cages were filthy and uncared for. They had lost about two-thirds of their body weight.
After seeing Salih’s post, a group of animal activists came to the park.  They found inadequate veterinary care, no schedule for vaccinations, and no feeding regime. Often, the starving lions were left without food for four days in a row.
In an updated post, Salih explains, “The park holds the wildlife police directly responsible for the deteriorating condition of the lions, and stated that the income of the park for a month is not enough to feed one lion for a week.”
He mentions the plan for treating the lions and nursing them back to health. In his conclusion, he writes, “It is extremely important to note that after this post, it has come to our attention that many other parks are in the same poor state. So we hope this initiative can reach out to all wildlife parks and sanctuaries.”
According to Brigadier Essamelddine Hajjar, a manager of Al-Qureshi Park in Khartoum, park officials often had to pay for lion food out of pocket. Additionally, the poor park conditions detrimentally affected the health of the animals inside. The Khartoum municipality manages the park, but it’s partly funded by private donors. 
When one of the five rescued lions died, the online campaign to help the animals only grew.
Rescuing the Lions
After the viral post, representatives from the International Fund for Animal Welfare collaborated with the Sudan Wildlife Authority to help the sick animals and improve the park’s environment. IFAW also came to support the veterinarians sent from the Four Paws charity and young volunteers who live locally.
Four Paws were among the first responders to this situation, and they have worked intensively to help these lions.
“When we did our initial assessment, the lions had lost almost two-thirds of their body weight,” said Dr. Ali Khalil, the team leader in Sudan who co-organized the work at the park. “Two lions died before our arrival due to severe dehydration and malnutrition. A male lion, Mansour, and a female called Kandaka were, particularly in a bad way. Both had signs of cataracts, so their sight is not great. If the lion goes blind, they will need special care.”
The vets estimate that the surviving lions could live for another 15–20 years with the right treatment.
Thank you all for the support and for the interaction on this very important topic. After seeing the fires in Australia…Posted by Osman Salih on Saturday, January 18, 2020
Meanwhile, the starving lions weren’t the only survivors from this park. Other included two emaciated hyenas, which are also being treated. One of them is now expecting three cubs. There’s also a monitor lizard, two birds of prey, two pythons, and multiple freshwater turtles.
“We were lucky to be able to interact with Kandaka as she was so weak we could not give her anesthetic as she would have died,” said Dr. Khalil, no stranger to rescuing animals from rundown parks. “Our team managed to catch her and get the fluids into her. She was eating and drinking that night. Lions are fighters and want to survive. She has continued to put on weight and is now able to stand and is much healthier.”
Improving the Zoo
Fortunately, the Sudan Wildlife Authority is now enforcing proper management of the park, including proper feeding regimes, better cleaning methods, and protocols for handling the animals.
“Countries struggling with unrest lack resources to provide the proper and needed care not only for the animals but also the people,” said Dr. Elsayed Mohamed, IFAW’s regional director. “When IFAW stepped in to help these animals, we indirectly helped the staff who are taking care of these animals too. After 50 years of experience, IFAW learned to never take people out of the equation. To help animals, we need to help the people too”.
Four Paws has succeeded in relocating the lions out of the park. They now live in a new home with proper care. According to updates on Salih’s Facebook page, the once starving lions are now thriving and healthy.
- “Photos of starving lions in Sudan spark online campaign to save them.” CBS News. Ashraf Shazly. February 20, 2020
- “One of five malnourished lions dies in Sudan park.” Yahoo News. AFP. January 20, 2020
- “Dubai group supports work to save starving lions in Sudanese zoo.” The National News. Nick Webster. February 29, 2020